Eloquence

What makes a person eloquent? What qualities make others not only listen to a person, but ponder and remember what was said?

At first, many people might think that flowery words or the ability to evoke images and burn a picture into the minds of listeners are the most important aspects of being eloquent. While a broad vocabulary to select from and the ability to pick just the right adverb or adjective to lend visual brilliance to what is being said definitely make a speaker or writer more engaging they do not make a great speaker or writer.

The verbal, whether oral or written, must first address what people want to hear or create interest that did not exist before. A storyteller can enrapture children and adults alike as Sheherazade did by transporting them to other times and places filled with adventure, opulence, danger and intrigue. Not being able to put a book down because you just have to see what is going to happen next. Entertain people.

Eloquence can also make people think, sometimes when they do not want to. Writers like Swift, Paine and Emerson could not only turn a phrase, but could also create interest in readers and turn subjects that many people would consider mundane into avenues of interest. When taking subjects such as politics, philosophy and theology and turning them to must-reads the author has reached the apex of eloquence.

Speakers do this in other ways. Many of the most reviled and respected leaders throughout history were extremely eloquent or were mesmerizing. It was said that many people who listened to Hitler speak could remember almost nothing which he actually said, but were virtually hypnotized by the way in which he said it.

One of the most important factors in using words is to anticipate what the readers or listeners will be interested in, or to create that interest by leading them down a path of ideas and images. Almost all people want to think more and learn more. To harvest their attention, first draw their interest and then answer the questions that are not being asked and plant the seed that develops the interest to verbalize the questioning thoughts. From infancy to advanced age, the question of “Why?” is always asked and the eloquent person answers it or asks it himself.

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